How Can We Keep from Singing in the Rain!
Los Gatos, California, October 2016. Yes, we sang, danced, and networked. Yes, it rained from arrival to departure. No, it didn’t dampen the spirits of those gathered for the annual Children’s Music Network Annual International Conference. My weekend started with hellos and hugs in the Registration area. I’ve been coming to CMN conferences for fifteen years, and I still get excited to see CMN friends that I only see once each year. Hoping for longer conversations as the weekend progresses—and knowing that it doesn’t always happen—I have to settle for “good to see you” with many.
I don’t eat much at our conferences, as I’m talking and listening with new friends and old during meals. I don’t sleep much, either, grabbing a hallway chat or a late-night sotto voce share. I don’t miss either, as what fills me up and refreshes me is the music and connections.
Highlights for me this year included dancing my feet off at Friday night’s contra dance, making it to all four workshop sessions, and the keynote presentation. The dance provided initial eye contact and hand-holding opportunities that I could build upon over the weekend—any one of them could be a friend I’ll have ten years from now. The workshops—oh, what a jackpot of songs and ideas I pocketed in the Early Childhood Songswap and Jane Cobb’s “The Power of Song to Foster Attachment.” I immediately began sharing what I learned with my classes upon my return to Chicago.
Then there was Melanie DeMore. As chair of the Keynote Committee, I anticipated an inspiring presentation. As I wrote Melanie’s introduction, I was struck with the vastness of her experience as a singer, composer, activist, and choral director. I spoke with her briefly upon her arrival. She was self-assured, composed, and ready to get down to business.
Melanie took the stage with a simple “I am a fortunate person—I get to sing every day all over the world,” and began to sing “Gonna Be a Great Day!” How right she was! She imparted many “think about this” moments that resonated in my brain after the presidential election a few weeks later:
- Be visible in the world.
- Walk in the world as your true self. Find a voice for all people.
- Rise up and shine. We are the 99!
- “Yes, I can do that. I just don’t know how yet. Show me how!”
- Liberate yourself. Then go back and bring someone else with you across the line.
We sang with Melanie. We were uplifted and challenged by Melanie. We were given the gift of Melanie. Amen, Miss Melanie DeMore!
That was just the first twenty-four hours! The Round-Robin, mentoring, networking, and Magic Penny Award Ceremony honoring José-Luis Orozco were all yet to come. I had to leave during the Closing Circle, but the conference had yet one final highlight before I skedaddled: Galen Brandt’s newly penned anthem “We Will Go High” was reprised, this time sung full-throated by all assembled. Tears in my eyes, I stumbled from the room. CMN had done it again—lifted me up, inspired me to be a better me, brought me future friends, and sent me home with a brain bursting with music. See you next year? You bet!